Asian Shares Mixed As Focus Shifts To Fed Meeting

Asian stocks ended mixed on Monday as investors awaited cues from a slew of central bank meetings and key U.S. economic data due later in the week that could dent market hopes for rate cuts next year.

After an upbeat nonfarm payrolls report, investors have already scaled back expectations for a March cut by the Federal Reserve.

The Fed meets this week, with analysts expecting no change in rates. The so-called dot plots for rates, Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference and Tuesday’s CPI report for November could influence interest rate expectations.

The European Central Bank, Bank of England, Norges Bank and the Swiss National Bank also have their rate setting meetings this week, with Norway’s Norges Bank facing a tough choice on whether or not to go ahead with a final quarter-point rate hike.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index recovered from an early slide to close higher as hopes persisted for more stimulus to boost growth.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.7 percent to 2,991.44, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 0.8 percent to 16,201.49.

Chinese consumer price inflation fell at the fastest pace in three years in November and factory gate deflation deepened, indicating rising deflationary pressures in the world’s second-largest economy.

Japanese shares bounced back after falling sharply last week. A weaker yen boosted sentiment after reports indicated that Bank of Japan (BoJ) Governor Kazuo Ueda’s comments last week were taken out of context and were not meant to signal anything about the timing of a policy shift.

The Nikkei 225 Index jumped 1.5 percent to 32,791.80 after tumbling 3.4 percent last week. The broader Topix Index settled 1.5 percent higher at 2,358.55.

Sentiment among large Japanese manufacturers improved at the end of the year, quarterly survey results from the Ministry of Finance showed earlier in the day.

The business survey index of large manufacturers rose to 5.7 in the fourth quarter from 5.4 in the preceding period.

Seoul stocks eked out modest gains, with the Kospi rising 0.3 percent to 2,525.36 on signs of a resilient U.S. economy. Defense firm IG Nex1 soared nearly 30 percent after reports that it plans to acquire shares in a U.S. robot firm.

Australian markets finished marginally higher after a choppy session. Energy stocks rallied as oil extended Friday’s rally on reports that the United States would commence refilling its strategic petroleum reserves. Miners underperformed on concerns over Chinese economic recovery.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX-50 Index slipped 0.4 percent to 11,449.47.

U.S. stocks hit new highs for 2023 on Friday as solid economic data fueled hopes for a soft landing by the economy.

While November’s nonfarm payrolls report showed stronger-than-expected job growth and an unexpected drop in the unemployment rate to 3.7 percent, a University of Michigan report showed a pullback in consumers’ inflation expectations in December.

The Dow and the S&P 500 both edged up around 0.4 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained half a percent.

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